I’ve generally kept up with my Swedish language learning since I left the country.
At times, it has been slow going – life gets in the way and I forget to study for a week or two but I’ve managed to continue learning, despite my absence.
That said, now that I’m not constantly surrounded by the language, my listening skills are noticeably less fine-tuned than they were when I was living there.
Last time I visited I attempted to keep up with a conversation between some of my Swedish friends. My brain was reeling trying to glean enough keywords to make sense of the otherwise jumbled sounds that they were making with their mouths.
It took me way too long to realise that I’d been asked “hänger du med?” which is an informal way of asking someone if they are able to follow the conversation.
No Simon, I most certainly do not “hänger med”.
He went on to point out that my listening skills had been much better just months earlier and I was brutally reminded that listening skills do diminish over time and that like many skills – if you don’t use it, you lose it.
I set out on a quest to find some resources to restore my Swedish listening skills to their former glory.
Here are some of the resources that I’ve been using to help.
Also make sure to read Donovan’s Glossika review which has an excellent Swedish course for training your listening comprehension (paid though).
Improve your Swedish listening comprehension with music
The statistics about Sweden’s music industry are a bit sketchy.
Some sources say that Sweden has consistently hit top ten in the world for music exports per capita since the 1990’s.
Others don’t make such bold claims but the figures definitely seem to suggest that the world is aware that Swedish music is wonderful.
Before I get stuck into the other sources, I guess I best get this over and done with. Yes, Abba classics can be found in Swedish.
You can start with Mamma Mia here:
Swedish songs on Spotify: suitable for all levels
You may or may not know that Spotify is also a Swedish export.
Needless to say, Swedish artists have a huge presence on Spotify and there are a heap of playlists available that include top Swedish hits.
I often trawl through Topplistan Sverige, Årets Artister 2017, Svensk Pop, Rock Idag, or otherwise run searches for common phrases like mysig or fest for songs for a certain mood!
If you’re looking for something a little more concrete, I’d suggest Veronica Maggio, Kent, De Vet Du, Movits!, Maskinen, Lars Winnerbäck, Hasse Andersson, Norlie & KKV, Håkan Hellström, and 1987 for easy-to-understand lyrics and excellent beats across several genres.
The 2015 winner of Eurovision, Måns Zelmerlöw, also has a few tunes in Swedish that could be to your taste.
Disney Songs in Swedish: suitable for all levels
I was super chuffed when I discovered this playlist!
The songs all have subtitles in English and Swedish, they’re all really clear and the language used is generally quite accessible.
From a vocabulary and grammar perspective, this playlist will probably mostly benefit beginners through to low-intermediate learners.
From a life perspective, well – who doesn’t love a little Disney?
Learn through Swedish radio
This website provides a comprehensive list of Swedish radio stations available online.
It also alerts you to where the particular station is recorded – so if you’re after exposure to a particular dialect, it isn’t a bad place to start.
I’m quite partial to the Skånsk accent (I say this knowing full well that I will be subjected to ridicule) so Malmöhus is my go to.
Whilst the listening component is likely to be the most beneficial for intermediate to advanced learners of Swedish, the stations owned by Sveriges Radio sometime have transcripts available of the news conversations online.
This means that you can practice your listening and then read the conversation after to see if there’s anything you misheard or perhaps misunderstood.
Television and movies to learn Swedish
SVT Språkplay: suitable for all levels
Before I get started discussing this app, I will insert a rather unfortunate caveat – this app is currently only available to people who are in Sweden.
You can choose your language level and then watch your favourite TV programs in Swedish.
The programs will then play with clickable subtitles which can translate any new words for you.
Unfortunately, my access to this app was limited to the time I lived in Sweden so I can’t provide you with any information about how it held up as my language improved.
But I did quite enjoy the content whilst I had access and am happy to recommend it to any learners currently in Sweden.
SVT Play: suitable for all levels
You can find a bunch of Swedish programs on this website, including ice hockey and the truly excellent TV series, På Spåret.
There are categories at the top of the page so you can filter out programs that aren’t to your taste.
Bear in mind that SVT Play and SVT Språkplay will have a lot of crossover between the available programs, so it’s best to choose one or the other if you’re in Sweden and have that option.
If you’re not in Sweden, this is the closest you’ll get to Språkplay.
Netflix in Swedish: suitable for all levels
I recently binge-watched Fallet (The Case).
It’s an adorably awkward series about a crime in Sweden involving a British citizen.
The protagonists are a Swedish woman and British man, so the language switches between Swedish and English throughout but it’s a great watch and there are plenty of opportunities to practice your listening.
My usual method for finding material in my target language is to run of the following searches:
- Audio in Swedish
- Subtitles in Swedish
- Swedish language
Other Swedish stuff for your viewing and listening pleasure:
The original Millenium Series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl who played with Fire, Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)
These three movies aren’t always easy viewing and they do address some pretty dark themes so it might not be your cup of tea – or the best thing to watch before going to bed, alone, in the dark.
Welcome To Sweden
This series is adorable, hilarious, and definitely suitable for watching before bed.
It includes quite a few cultural references as well. It switches between English and Swedish, so it isn’t total immersion. Nonetheless, it’s great and you should definitely watch it!
Bron (The Bridge)
This series switches between Danish and Swedish at times, but is a really great show and is definitely available online with subtitles (English or Swedish). It’s a murder mystery about a body that was found on the Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark.
En Man Som Heter Ove (A Man Called Ove)
This is possibly my favourite Swedish film (and novel).
The characters are wonderful, the storyline is great. I highly recommend it.
It was available on Netflix in Australia for a while but definitely isn’t available in Russia – so you might be able to source it (and some subtitles) there if you’ve got access.
Audiobooks in the Swedish language
Bookbeat: suitable for all levels
This company assures you that they have böcker för alla smaker (books for all tastes) and their range certainly doesn’t disappoint. The pricing is a bit steep.
I usually just subscribe for short periods if they have specials but you can get ongoing access for about 169 kronor per month.
They have an array of children’s books which are suitable for beginners.
They often also come with an ebook copy of the audio, so you can read after you’ve listened to check your understanding.
For the intermediate to advanced learners, they have quite a good selection of audiobooks available in Swedish across a broad range of topics.
You’ll likely find some material of interest and suitable for your level.
I haven’t actually been too successful in finding audiobooks online in Swedish.
There are quite a few books available on YouTube if you run a quick search for ljudböcker. The range for children is better than that for adults, but still – better than nothing!
Some of the videos are okay, but there are quite a few that are not easy on the ear.
I cannot unhear the version of the Pippi Långstrump theme song that I heard whilst roaming the depths of Swedish Youtube.
Klartext: Beginner to pre-intermediate learners
This program gives you access to the news in “easy Swedish”.
The newsreaders speak slowly and use accessible language so it’s perfect for practice in that regard.
You can conveniently listen to the daily podcast on your mobile and then you can check out the Radio Sweden website to check the transcripts to clear up any mistakes or misunderstandings.
Frågar Åt En Kompis: Intermediate to advanced learners
The name of this podcast translates roughly to “asking for a friend”.
The hosts speak reasonably slowly, most of the time, and they discuss topics like “how close should you stand to the person in front of you in the line at the pharmacy?” and “is breast milk vegan?”.
The episodes are about 20 minutes each so it’s an easy dose of listening.
Creepypodden: Intermediate to advanced learners
This podcast is perfect for those of you who dig creepypasta.
It’s a collection of creepy tales in Swedish with a fantastic creator who makes the transcripts available online.
The language is a bit specific but if creepypasta is your scene then you’re likely to need to know the difference between a “spöke” (ghost) and an “ande” (spirit).
YouTube content for Swedish listening practise
Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time: Strong beginners to pre-intermediate learners
A truly bizarre cooking program where they violently combine the ingredients and yell out what they’re doing in Swedish. They do switch to English for more advanced vocabulary and state that the show is in Swenglish.
I’ve always considered the kitchen to be a great place to practice Swedish.
Food vocabulary is often provided very early on in any course and your conversations can easily increase in length and difficulty as you improve. My only concern with this program is that their speech is not always easy to discern.
I guess in some respects it’s helpful to try to pick out the words from speakers who aren’t easy to understand.
However I wouldn’t recommend trying to emulate their speech unless you want to seem like a slightly crazy person.
IJustWantToBeCool: suitable for strong pre-intermediate learners and above
It’s a comedy channel that had me in stitches.
The faces that the host can pull are absolutely astounding and the language is easy to understand and follow.
Sadly there aren’t any subtitles so I can’t recommend it for beginners.
But it would be accessible to any pre-intermediate learners (and anyone above this level of course).
De Vet Du: suitable for all learners
I mentioned these guys in my music discussion above but they do have a YouTube channel with their songs plus some comedy skits.
They’re a little on the strange side but I’ve always enjoyed their sense of humour and their songs are annoyingly catchy.
After you’ve finished honing your listening skills, you can practice discerning dialects.
There are heaps of regional dialects in Sweden, but they are divided into six categories: South Swedish, Götaland, Svealand, Norrland, Finland Swedish and Gotland.
You can practice listening to each of these dialects on the Radio Svenska website (provided above). Then you can challenge yourself to distinguish between the dialects – if you’re feeling brave.
The challenge is available here.
Click snabbtest on the first screen and then starta on the second – although I’m not optimistic about your results if you needed that guidance!
A Swedish vlogger tried the same test, so if you’d like some commentary in English – this is worth a view:
Med vänlig hälsning!
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